Sunday, 29 November 2015

Make, Bake, Sew, Grow

{ Make }

I've been making the mantel a little more festive with the addition of some battery powered fairy lights.

How did I not know about these? They're brilliant! No wires trailing everywhere...I hid the battery in the yellow tea pot.

I'm pretty bored with the mantel arrangement to be honest. I'm looking forward to festooning this slab of oak with every single Christmas decoration we own in a couple of weeks. 

In the mean time, this rather beautiful bare branched tree is lovely. I found it hidden away a few weeks ago in a drawer. I might hang some mini baubles on it if I can find some.

I have made two rather fabulous additions to my bowl and cookery book collection, neither of which are small and both of which always need to be added to. We spent this weekend with my (oldest and best) friend Abigail and she gave me this incredibly lovely Ken Eardley bowl and a new cookery book Life is Sweet as late housewarming gifts. 

I haven't cooked from it yet but I have two other Hummingbird Bakery books and they're very good and well used, so I'm keen to try something from this. The recipes for Oatmeal Spice Cake, Lemon Chiffon Pie and Cornmeal Cookies all need my urgent attention.

{ Bake }

In preparation for this Deep-South themed baking onslaught I have purchased tinned pumpkin and molasses. I'd thought molasses was like treacle and was surprised to find it's just like darker, stickier demerara sugar. I didn't know where I'd get these two items either, as they're not exactly widely used in the UK, but I should've known: Waitrose.

The novelty of having a branch a ten minute walk away hasn't worn off yet. I have an urge to make Pumpkin Pancakes, just to see what they're like. 

My other new obsession is Chai Latte hot drinks. I love this stuff. (On a side note - the December issue of The Simple Things is a bit good! It's the first issue I've bought in about a year and I'm enjoying it.)

Sugary drinks and baking aside, this Chickpea and Preserved Lemon Stew from A Modern Way to Eat was outstanding. Definitely one to make again -  quick, easy and cheap too, using store cupboard ingredients. Apart from the preserved lemons that is. Again, thank you Waitrose.

{ Sew }

It's all about the crochet lately. I don't know why, but I'm enjoying it and I like the results so who cares. I'm steadily increasing the border on my blanket and it's a little repetitive, but a nice project for those evenings when I just want mindless crochet.

I'm also making Bella and Angus a toy each from this book. This is my first attempt at amigurumi-style crochet and so far so good, although the constant counting does get a bit boring sometimes. This headless creation will soon be a polar bear for Bella 

{ Grow }

The only times I've been in the garden lately are to put something in the bin or chuck ash on the compost heap. There's nothing going on out there. But we do have a holly tree and a lot of fir trees, so in a couple of weeks I plan to drag some of that inside and attempt to do something creative with it all. 

There ends my round up of what's going on. Life is hectic. People keep asking me if I'm "ready for Christmas". I'm not, and the amount of stuff on the calendar over the next three weeks isn't helping with that, but that's the way it is at this time of year and I wouldn't really have it any other way. 

{ Make } Something for the home.

{ Bake } Something from the kitchen.

{ Sew } Something crafty.

{ Grow } Something in the garden.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Colour Collaborative: November: Wood

One of the things I miss most about our old house is the wooden floors, which ran from the living room through the dining room to the extension at the other end of the house. Laid by John and my father in law while I was pregnant with Bella, they were wide French oak planks, full of burrs and knots which had the most wonderful texture. They gave the downstairs such an open feel and bounced the light around beautifully. (I also miss the abundant natural light in that house, and the internal doors, original to when the house was built in the forties. The doors in our new house are rubbish.)

But I don't know that I ever really noticed the colour of those wooden floorboards, more the way they made the room feel. They were a sort of honey colour, pale but not bleached, more golden, sandy. A very natural colour really, as they only had clear varnish on them in these photos, but they made the room feel so warm, like it was always bathed in sunshine.

This is the flooring in the living room in our new house. It's a laminate floor, dark brown and very smooth and shiny. I find the lack of texture annoying as it shows every single scuff and speck of dust and, when mopped, must be buffed or else horrible water marks are left behind. It is, however, quick and easy to clean (a steam cleaner does the job nicely without water marks) and in good condition, so we have no plans to rip out a perfectly good floor just because it's not quite to our liking. 

But I find the dark colour of the floor quite oppressive. Our charcoal grey sofa and chunky oak coffee table look heavy against it. It needs some light relief, and I think a rug would help a lot here. Something large and pale or perhaps colourful, to balance out all that rich wood-effect flooring. I know the room looks light in these photos, but they were taken on a sunny August day. On a wet, gloomy November afternoon this room needs all the light in can get. 

Do you worry about wood tones matching in a room? I know some people like the dining table to match the chairs, or the coffee table to match the sideboard. Personally, I prefer a little variation - different types of wood, some painted, some not, all mixed up together. 

There is such a lot of wood in our house when I look around, all of it different, none of it matching. Fake wooden flooring, white painted IKEA plywood flat pack, yes. But there are lovely pieces too, like the pine chest of drawers above or the teak 1960s G-Plan dining table, below.

And the walnut rocking horse my father-in-law made for the children. 

Things we treasure. I love wood, love the breadth of tone and depth of colour it offers, from warm pink-red hard woods to walnut which almost has a hint of grey, from caramel oak and pine through to the palest ash. Like house plants and flowers, they bring warmth and a natural quality to a home.


Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends. I wish you all a peaceful and happy holiday.


Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below:

Annie at Annie Cholewa
Sandra at Cherry Heart
Jennifer at Thistlebear
Claire at Above The River
Sarah at Mitenska

What is The Colour Collaborative? 

All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Twinkle Twinkle

Something has shifted and changed over these last few days; in the weather, in the season, and in my mood. It's turned cold, with a biting wind straight from the north, talk of snow showers, and clear skies which turn from blue to palest violet, peach, pink. The last leaves are falling fast, leaving bare branches silhouetted against the sky and it feels like autumn just took a step closer to winter. And there is the whisper of Christmas not so far away now.

We went into town yesterday afternoon to watch the Mayor switch on the Christmas lights. After half an hour we went home, frozen, to watch Elf under a blanket in front of the fire. We didn't even wait to see the lights get switched on. It was still lovely though, to be out, surrounded by friends from school, in our new community. Today we walked along the harbour, all bundled up like little snowmen. Hats, scarves, gloves, the lot. 

I hung some fairy lights in the porch (I really don't see why they should be just for Christmas) and I love the welcoming glow they bring to the entrance to our house. Next weekend I'll be up in the loft digging out the advent calendar and wreath. At home, we've been keeping warm in the kitchen, baking gingerbread and shortbread biscuits, drinking many cups of tea or hot chocolate, doing a little festive crafting. The new washing machine has been delivered and plumbed in and it's amazing, so quiet! Our old one sounded like a aeroplane landing when it was in full spin - this one is so discreet I hardly know it's there, and it politely beeps at me to let me know it's finished. I'm sure we're going to be very happy together. Of course I spent a good part of this weekend doing all the usual chores too, but with a more of a spring in my step as I am allowing myself to feel the teeniest bit of festive excitement. Some dislike the early onset of the festive season - and I wont be buying a tree for quite some time yet - but I like it, I like the build up, the planing and the preparations. It's all about the anticipation for me.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

A Rug for a Bedroom

Back in September I showed you some rugs I'd crocheted in very chunky t-shirt/rag yarn and I had decided then and there that I wanted to make one for our bedroom - partly to break up the large expanse of cream flooring, and partly to disguise the poor condition of the carpets we inherited with this house. We plan to replace them eventually but, for now, rugs are my solution. 

I bought some yarn in gentle colours which I hoped would tone with our bedroom without being too matchy-matchy. I like to be able to move things around to different parts of the house all the time without worrying about whether something "goes". 

I have to say that I do really love working with this stuff. Projects work up incredibly quickly and have a structure that is so different to my usual crochet; more weighty, more substantial. It's a lot of fun, and the make-up of the stitches is so distinct. It can be hard on the fingers or wrists after a while, and I wouldn't want to crochet all day with this thickness of yarn, but for an hour at a time (if I'm lucky!) it's fine. Also, the rugs have a delicious squishiness to them underfoot - almost a bounce - and they feel wonderful when you step out of bed barefoot onto one. 

I like the effect of the colours very much. The greys were chosen for their neutrality and the navy blue to reflect the blue drawer handles and wall behind our bed, but I didn't think I'd love the peach so much. It brings some warmth and a little femininity to the finished project. 

I used Boodles (from Hobbycraft) again, more for convenience than any attachment to that brand. I find the thickness of Boodles yarn very inconsistent but I don't think that this necesarily affects the overall outcome of a circular project, so long as you start and finish a round with the same ball. You're not going to get a perfect circle, and the size of this project makes it impossible to block with pins, so I didn't bother and have found that these rugs seem to flatten down and even themselves out with time. 

I used most of my six balls with small amounts of each colour left over, and I want to try making some bowls or baskets with the remaining yarn.  The pattern is the Medium Lace Rug from my much-used Modern Crochet, but with a colour variation that I made up as I went along. It measures 90 cm across and I used a 10 mm hook. 

Thank you for your comments on my last post. I really enjoyed your advice on how to survive - even enjoy - an endlessly wet, grey November. Getting cosy, fires, candles, cake, crafting - all good stuff. And you are all right, we need this time to pause and gather strength before the inevitable craziness of December sets in. And it will, it always does. 

It's still raining here. Oh, if only you could've seen me run this morning to grab my camera, as the light levels briefly changed from Awful to Moderate, before reverting to Awful again. Not great photos here today, sorry, but if I wait for a sunny day then..well, see you next spring! Apparently the weather is going to turn cold this weekend, and I welcome it. I was supposed to be going to London with Bella and Angus to meet up with a friend from Leeds and her son, but it's been postponed as she's unwell. I'm disappointed not to be going but at the same time thrilled with the prospect of a bonus day, a day to spend safe at home with the children and perhaps some pottering and maybe even a little festive crafting. 

Sunday, 15 November 2015


I don't much care for November. It always seems such a damp and dark month, stuck between colourful October and sparkly December. When I visualise the months of the year (and days of the week too) in my head they each have their own distinct colours. October is coppery-brown, December navy blue flecked with silver. November is pewter grey. 

It's rained a lot lately, or at least it feels like it has. And when it hasn't rained it's been misty and murky from morning till night, and I don't like leaving work when it's getting dark any more than I like waking up without sunshine. It's a bit depressing, coming home to a dark house. I've sorted out timers on lights now, but still. 

I don't seem to have many photos to share, just these few, taken this weekend while staying with friends who live just outside Bristol. Old friends from Leeds who we've known for years, the kind of friendships that grow and last. It was lovely to see the children all pick up where they left off, lovely to be welcomed into their big, noisy, colourful, creative home.

I have so many things I want to photograph. I've just made a big rug for our bedroom and it's come out really well, I'm itching to share it with you, but it's so tricky now to photograph things. I'm only in the house during daylights hours for a short time each morning, and if it's gloomy - or I'm busy - then no photos.  My hours at work have gone back to their normal part time, and I really appreciate the difference it makes. Everything is slightly less rushed. Still busy, but there's a little give in the schedule. 

Our washing machine has died. A man came to look at it and said fixing it would cost the same as buying a new one. It was older than Angus and I think that washing machine years when you have young children are like dog years, so really it was about forty years old, not seven. A shiny new one is coming this week. My incredibly kind parents have been taking our washing every couple of days and then returning it, dried, folded and smelling wonderful (why does other peoples' washing powder always smell nicer than the one I use?) before picking up another bag of laundry. Consequently, I'm finding our lack of washing machine an incredibly stress free experience, although I'm not sure if my parents would share that sentiment. 

I'm starting to think about Christmas. I've done some shopping online and I've picked out two patterns for toys I want to make Bella and Angus. I have to say that I miss the time I used to have to make gifts. Right now, I want to to make everything I see; presents for friends and family, edible gifts, Christmas decorations, bits and bobs for the house. I want to make a new advent calendar even though we have a beautiful one already. But I can only do a few things and I have to be realistic, to choose my projects wisely, know my limitations. It's all too easy to get caught up in the Christmas race if you're not careful, and no-one wins that one. 

Sunday, 8 November 2015

November Things

:: Bonfire Night :: 

It's by far and away my favourite thing about this time of year. Angus's face was a picture. He was completely entranced by the display and it was lovely to watch. 

(I'm sorry about the quality of the above photos, I took them on my phone. The ones that follow aren't much better either, what with the total lack of sunlight we've had this week.)

:: Ginger Cake ::

Making and eating this is as traditional as going to a fireworks display for me, and this recipe is from the excellent Nigella Christmas. Reading this book and thinking about what I want to cook and eat over Christmas is another November ritual of mine. 

:: Eating up the pumpkins :: 

Ok, squashes, in the form of Thai Butternut Squash Soup. I made and froze litres of this a few weeks ago, and discovered that it forms a quick and easy basis for a meal. I defrosted and reheated a couple of portions of the soup and roasted two chicken breasts, shredding them with forks when they were cooked. While that was going on I cooked some wild rice. The chicken was stirred into the soup, along with a spoonful of Thai curry paste, lots of coriander, and a pak choi that was a little past it's best. I spooned the cooked rice into bowls then poured the soupy mixture on top. Not really a soup or a Thai curry either, but it needed to be eaten with a spoon. Warming, spicy and easy, just what I needed on Friday night when I was tired and it had rained all week. 

:: Reading, and planning ::

I always knew that my local library stocked magazines, but it didn't occur to me to borrow them until I saw three copies of Inside Crochet sitting there. I don't usually buy crochet magazines as I think they're expensive and there isn't often much I want to make. But I enjoyed flicking through these and did photocopy a few patterns that I may make in the future. I also found this gem:

It's called the Granny Chic Pinwheel Blanket and is from Crochet Home by Emma Lamb. The last thing I need is a new blanket to be thinking about, but I like the fresh take on the traditional granny square motif here. 

:: Nesting ::

I found a drawer full of bits and bobs I'd unpacked last spring but hadn't wanted to put up straight away. Garlands, curtain tie backs, the odd ornament. 

It doesn't surprise me that, after a week of incessant rain and gloom, I should be trying to fill our home with colour and decoration, small touches that lift my spirits. 

:: Getting cosy ::

It hasn't been cold this week, in fact it's been strangely mild which is quite disconcerting. Most days our heating doesn't even come on and there are still flowers in all the front gardens around here. I still have geraniums going strong in the pots by the front door! But this damp grey weather still makes me want to hurry home and get cosy, even if it is too mild to light the stove.

(Thank you so much for your comments lately, in particular those about the blanket. I am glad not to be the only parent dealing with a moody child!)

Joining in with Jennifer's Winter Project Link Party.